Sunset Family Restaurant in Lebanon closes after 62 years of southern goodness

Sunset Family Restaurant
Posted at 3:43 PM, Oct 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-10 19:47:52-04

LEBANON, Tenn. (WTVF) — Hundreds of people stood in long lines Sunday, to say goodbye to a beloved Lebanon restaurant that's been serving customers since the 1950s. "Well we got here at 9:30 this morning," said Cindi Fuller, a customer that waited in line for nearly two hours to make sure she got a table.

You often find people in long lines when there's some thing, or some event that people are excited about. "We’ve eaten here three times this week," said Darlene Enzfelder, a longtime customer.

But this is not one of those moments. "I’m going to be sad to see it go. We eat here at least once a weekend," said Fuller.

That's because no one seems ready to say goodbye to the Sunset Family Restaurant. "It’s just sad, it’s just sad," said Gary Enzfelder.

Since 1959, the meat and three has hosted a lot of firsts for families and friends, but Sunday was their last day of operations. "I can’t believe it’s my last day to open the door. And I love all y’all," said Tammy Gonzalez, a longtime server at the restaurant.

Tammy has been bringing out the piping hot, savory southern goodness for the last twenty years. She's become so popular, customers often request her, but she rarely has to request them for their order. "I know everybody’s order. I may not be good with their names but I know what they eat," said Tammy with a laugh.

Which is what makes this day so hard. "It’s a very emotional day for all of us, because not only are we losing our jobs, we’re losing part of our family. And I will miss every smiling face that ever come in here," said Gonzalez.

"These people love us," said Virginia Hodge, co-owner of Sunset Family Restaurant. "They’re showing it today."

Hodges and her husband have owned and operated the establishment for what feels like a lifetime. "54 [years] and four months to the day," she said. It's been owned by her husband's family since the very beginning.

She can easily track the time because she's quite literally never missed a moment. "We own this place but we work with these people every day. We are here every day," said Hodge.

Which is why, they knew it was time. "It was time to stop. We’re 83 years old, we need to stop, we need to rest," she said.

But not without a few tears. "It’s hard to say bye," said Hodge.

So as the final orders come out of the kitchen and the final bites are taken, no one may be ready to say goodbye. But now that it's here, they're making sure it's a moment that matters. "I’m gonna miss all y’all. I’m gonna miss you so bad," said Tammy.

Sunset Family Restaurant will serve their final meal Sunday night at 9 pm. After that, the land has been purchased by a real estate developer that plans to demolish the building and, potentially, build a car wash in its place.